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College Writing: Using Sources:
Engage With Sources

Sources everywhere!

When you engage with a text and evaluate its claims, how do you know that the supporting evidence is accurate and reliable? Look at your source's sources! When an author cites other sources as evidence, you can follow up and evaluate those sources as well. (Yes, this means opening a lot of browser tabs.)

Sometimes you'll find that the cited sources don't offer enough support for the author's claims. In other cases, a linked source might actually be more relevant to your research than the original source, leading you down a new path. This is all part of the research process!

Example: Bioplastics

You're searching for sources about plastic pollution and find an article titled Why Bioplastics Will Not Solve the World’s Plastics Problem. You start to evaluate the source by considering the publication date, learning more about the author, and investigating the website's mission, purpose, and funding.

But you still need to think about accuracy! You decide to explore some of the sources cited in this article. Websites and news articles don't usually provide a full list of references, as we do in our academic writing, but they will often include links to their sources. Complete the tutorial below to follow these links and learn about different types of sources.

Exploring sources

Let's evaluate some sources that were referenced in the article above. Click the "Exploring Sources" button to open the tutorial window.

Click this button to begin the tutorial. Tutorial will open in a new tab or window.

Review sources

As we saw in the tutorial, the author provided supporting evidence from a wide variety of sources, including peer-reviewed articles, nonprofit research reports, corporate press releases, and quotes from college professors and other experts. When you look for sources to use in your academic writing, try to find many different types of sources! Each source should provide unique evidence to support your claims.